The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Fox says it hasn't tampered with 'Australia'

November 11, 2008 |  5:18 pm

The blogosphere has been full of breathless tales that Baz Luhrmann has been forced to dump the unhappy ending he filmed for "Australia," his $130-million adventure epic (due out later this month) that stars Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. Australia's Sunday Telegraph reports that 20th Century Fox executives forced Luhrmann to add a more upbeat ending after the film had "disastrous reviews" at early test screenings. Is it really possible that Fox would bully Luhrmann, a final-cut director, into giving his movie a happier ending?

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Even though we've had some heated disagreements in recent months about my coverage of his studio, Fox Co-Chairman Tom Rothman graciously agreed to have lunch with me today at the Fox commissary, where we did see eye-to-eye on one important matter--it was very cool to be sitting two tables away from the legendary Hong Kong action movie star Chow Yun-Fat. (What he was doing at Fox was something of a mystery, since Rothman said he wasn't making a movie with the actor.) So what about "Australia"? Was there any truth to the Sunday Telegraph story?

"Everything in that story was patently nonsensical," Rothman said. "It's all too typical of the way the world works today that everybody picked up an unsourced, anonymous quote-filled story in a tabloid from Sydney and nobody ever bothered to check to see if it was accurate. The facts are--Baz is a final-cut director and we never pressured him in any way, shape or form. He wrote the movie, shot it and cut it all himself without any interference from us at all."

Rothman said that the movie "has probably had seven different endings at one time or another, none of them easily characterized as happy or sad." He said Luhrmann chose the ending the director thought worked best for the film. "But you couldn't possibly characterize the ending as happy or sad," he told me. "I'd call it deeply satisfying but that's because it's very complex. In fact, you could have a long conversation about whether it's happy or sad, which is actually part of what makes it a great movie."

I can't wait to see the film. And I couldn't agree more with Rothman about the gall of the Sunday Telegraph relying on such shoddy reporting. Maybe Tom can use his influence to improve the quality of journalism Down Under. All he has to do is pick up the phone, since the Telegraph is owned by ... his boss, Rupert Murdoch.

Photo of Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in "Australia"  from Twentieth Century Fox / AFP / Getty Images

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